The Frame, The Fits & Before I Fall Movie Reviews

Here are three quickie reviews for three more movies before I post my 2017 end-of-year lists. Two are 2017 (UK release) films & I try to review all current movies by the end of the year. The other one is just one that I really really liked. Here we go…

The Fits (2015)

Directed by Anna Rose Holmer

Starring: Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Da’Sean Minor, Lauren Gibson, Makyla Burnam, Inayah Rodgers, Antonio A. B. Grant Jr.

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of Toni (Royalty Hightower), an 11-year-old tomboy who struggles to fit into a girls’ dance troupe, which begins to suffer from an inexplicable epidemic of violent fits.

My Opinion:

This film is a hard one to explain. It’s indie as f*^k and I’d never ever recommend it to anyone other than hardcore film fans (like you guys!). Yeah, it’s one of those festival films so it’s 2015 but was only released in the UK this year. It’s good. It’s “arty”. Royalty Hightower, who plays the “11-year-old tomboy”, is the best thing about it. From what I read, a real life dance team was found for this film and Hightower was one of them. She feels very real, probably due to the fact that she wasn’t an actor. I think, with young people in films, it’s sometimes better when they aren’t from an acting background as actors can come across as too fake.

I watched this because I was intrigued by the synopsis (and also because I was short on time & it’s only 1 hour & 12 minutes!). I read this at Wikipedia, which explains where director & writer Anna Rose Holmer got the idea for the film:

“While developing the script, Holmer was inspired by real-life stories of communities succumbing to fits of hysteria. She first became interested in historic cases of mass psychogenic illness and conversion disorder while producing Ballet 422 (2014). Examples of outbreaks of seizure-like attacks and uncontrollable spasms date back to the Middle Ages, but there are still cases of this occurring today. In 2007, a group of high school girls in Virginia suffered from “twitching arms and legs” that eventually resolved itself. Holmer’s research into this subject, specifically cases like the Dancing Plague, and the pattern of these fits emerging amongst young women inspired her to explore the nature of this subject in a coming of age dance-film.”

Bizarre. I’ve never heard of this sort of thing. Anyway, if you watch this, don’t expect a straightforward exploration of this topic. Or any exploration whatsoever. The film is quite atmospheric, which is something I enjoy but won’t be to everyone’s taste. This probably isn’t a great comparison but this film reminded me a little bit of the feeling I had while watching Picnic At Hanging RockPicnic is certainly the better film but I liked the mysterious tension throughout The Fits. It deserves a higher rating than I’m giving it but I have to say this is one of those movies that you’re unlikely to watch more than once and a lot of people would find it very slow & be frustrated by its lack of explanation. It’s very well made and I loved its originality, however, and I liked how “real” the characters felt. I’d be interested in seeing more films made by Anna Rose Holmer. 

My Rating: 6.5/10

Before I Fall (2017)

Directed by Ry Russo-Young

Based on Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Starring: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Jennifer Beals, Diego Boneta, Elena Kampouris

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
February 12 is just another day in Sam’s charmed life, until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her last day over and over, Sam untangles the mystery around her death and discovers everything she’s losing.

My Opinion:

Teen movie based on a YA novel! Once again, I’ll admit to still enjoying teen movies & YA fiction. Us adults were teens once – we can still relate! I was actually going to read this book before the movie but gave up after having it on reserve at the library for ages. Yeah, the library! I’m a library nerd. I realized fairly recently that, like, you can read books from there for free. 😉

Anyway. This is Groundhog Day with the twist being that this pretty teenage girl has to relive the last day of her life over & over again. She tries to make changes each time to see if she can stop the cycle, which always results in her death at the end of the day. Zoey Deutch plays the main girl. She’s so adorable. She looks soooo much like her mom Lea Thompson!

I really enjoyed this movie. It certainly won’t be winning any Oscars and the plot felt far from original but I love the “Groundhog Day story” that has been done so many times (I badly wanted to see Happy Death Day this year as well but didn’t manage it). It’s always fun to see the different ways this storyline can play out. I’m not sure why this didn’t come out in cinemas in the UK like it was originally meant to as it’s better than half the shit that gets a cinema release.

I can’t give this a higher rating as I have to admit that, while it’s fun & I liked it far more than I was expecting, it still felt quite shallow. The whole point is that Deutch’s popular character starts to see what life is like for those in her high school who don’t have it as easy as she does. Her boyfriend and her circle of friends are the popular assholes that most of us despised in school. Deutch is the “nice one” of the group anyway so it feels unfair that she’s the one with this fate. The story also feels a bit too forced and the characters are extremely one-dimensional. Other than Deutch, everyone is a “popular asshole!” or “unhappy & uncool nerd!”. Teenagers are more complex than that. Still, I liked this movie. Deutch has her mother’s charm. Also, this movie has a Grimes song in it (Genesis)! I love Grimes (I wrote about her HERE). I’ve included the video for Genesis at the end of this post.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Frame (2014)

Directed & Written & Music by Jamin Winans

Starring: David Carranza, Tiffany Mualem, Cal Bartlett, Christopher Soren Kelly, Anthony Nuccio

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Two strangers find their lives colliding in an impossible way. Alex is a methodical cargo thief working for a dangerous cartel. Sam is a determined paramedic trying to save the world while running from her past.

My Opinion:

I loved this movie. One of my favorite blogs here is mossfilm because he’s introduced me to a lot of great obscure sci-fi movies that I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. The Frame is one of these films. I’m not going to say a lot about it as his review is PERFECT (you can read it HERE). This is my favorite genre and I love when we get a film like The Frame, which feels truly fresh & original. It’s a bit arty smarty-pants but I loved the story and the fantastic visuals.

I don’t know how to discuss this one without giving too much away. The mossfilm review does say a bit about the plot if you’re interested. I think, if you love this genre and like to see a story which will surprise you & keep you guessing, you may be best going into this one knowing as little as possible. I’ll say that it tackles some interesting themes (like faith & fate) and I think it’s one from which different viewers will come away with different questions and feelings about it. For me, I saw it as a very unique love story and I thought the two main characters were fantastic (Alex the cargo thief played by David Carranza and Sam the paramedic played by Tiffany Mualem). Others will see it as something far deeper than the simple love story at its core (and it is) but, more than anything, the story itself is damn good. I watch a lot of movies so I get bored seeing the same predictable stories over & over again. I want more stuff like The Frame. I’ll never forget watching it, whereas I forget half the mainstream movies that I watch a year or so after seeing them.

I so want to talk more about this movie but I’m trying to avoid spoilers! Can someone else please watch it so we can discuss it?? 😉 The Frame is currently available on Amazon Prime Video in the UK & I highly recommend checking it out before it disappears since it’s an obscure one that could later be hard to find. Here’s a spoiler-free way of describing it: The Frame is like a really good long episode of Black Mirror. But more arty. And what I’ve seen of Black Mirror so far is great. Watch The Frame.

My Rating: 8/10

There are a couple of trailers for The Frame. One gives away too much of the story so I don’t recommend that one. The one below shows only images from the film. Still, I recommend knowing nothing beforehand but this is the safer trailer if you’re interested:

And this is the video for the Grimes song Genesis in Before I Fall. It’s weird. I love it.

Advertisements

Goosebumps (2015) Review 

I’ll be finishing Creepy Dolls Week tomorrow with a reblog of a review I did of a British horror classic which happens to contain a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. Today I’m reviewing a fun recent kids’ film which also happens to contain a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. What is it with dummies?! They’re clearly evil. Let’s have a look at the Goosebumps movie… 🙂

Goosebumps (2015)

Directed by Rob Letterman

Based on Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell, Halston Sage

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

My Opinion:

This was my seven-year-old’s first proper live action “scary movie”. I’m happy to report that she loved it. I was too old for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series when he started it but know I would’ve absolutely loved those books if they’d been around when I was younger. I grew up watching (the original) The Twilight Zone & The Alfred Hitchcock Hour from a very early age (probably 7 or 8) and have loved strange, scary, and/or supernatural & sci-fi stories ever since. As a pre-teen I got into Christopher Pike books (nice & weird – I loved those) and remember reading some pre-Goosebumps R.L. Stine (Twisted, The Babysitter, Blind Date – I had fun looking these up just now & remembering the covers!).

Anyway, I’m not going to force it but I’m hoping that this movie gets my daughter into liking these kind of stories a bit more now. Then she can be as weird as her mother! 😉 I’d love to read the Goosebumps books with her at some point. For those who’ve read them, what sort of ages would you recommend them for? I always thought they were aimed slightly older than this movie, which felt quite “young”. The movie stayed the right side of the line for my daughter – she was a little scared by some bits but I didn’t feel anything was too scary or at all inappropriate. If your kid doesn’t scare easily, I think this is fine for ages 7 & up. Goosebumps is a really fun family movie and, believe me, when you have young kids you appreciate when you start getting to watch some movies with them that you yourself can get some enjoyment from as well!

I of course won’t have had as much fun with this movie as those who read the Goosebumps series, though. I imagine this film was a real treat for his fans. The story’s setup is fantastic, which sees various R.L. Stine monsters brought to life when they’re accidentally released from the manuscripts he keeps locked in order to keep his out-of-control creations imprisoned. Jack Black plays R.L. Stine, which was fine by me as I’m a Jack Black fan & my daughter already liked him thanks to School Of Rock. The film’s concept was very bold & I think it works really well. Imagine this same story with Stephen King. That would be interesting! Can you imagine someone letting Pennywise loose?! (Although, that’s kind of happening in the US & UK at the moment with those asshole clowns running around). Look! Gnomes! I adore garden gnomes. I never thought of them as murderous before this movie…

The werewolf was also pretty cool…

But, of course, the main “monster” unleashed from R.L. Stine’s books is Slappy, this evil-looking ventriloquist’s dummy…

Yep. Dummies are evil! I’ve always known that. There are other creatures that are set loose but these were my favorites & Slappy is definitely the best (and most evil) of them all. He’s not overly terrifying, though – he’s “kid-friendly scary”. If that makes any sense. He won’t be in my nightmares but my daughter might now have a lifelong (healthy) distrust of creepy dummies. Oh, there’s also an abandoned amusement park in this movie (complete with working electricity somehow). I loved the amusement park scenes – what a perfect setting for a kids’ film.

There’s not much more I can really say about Goosebumps other than that it’s great when they actually make decent family films like this one. However, I know you’re unlikely to watch this unless you have children between 7 & 13ish or if you grew up reading the Goosebumps books. Dylan Minnette is fine as the lead teenage boy & I have to say I far prefer this film to the wildly overrated Don’t Breathe (so very NOT a family movie, FYI! Just comparing as he starred in both plus I just reviewed that one recently). I enjoyed Jack Black as always but I thought the biggest stars of this film were Slappy & Stine’s daughter (played by Odeya Rush). She’s a strong female character, which is always important to me as the parent of a girl. I loved a final twist to this movie, which I saw coming from the very start since I’ve lived & breathed these types of stories for 30+ years but know my daughter will have thought “Wow!” to the twist. That’s what I want to see! Her loving a strong story & great twist ending in the same way I did when watching all those Twilight Zone episodes as a kid. I can see Goosebumps being a favorite movie for a lot of kids & thinks it’s one that my daughter will forever be fond of.

My Rating: 7/10

CREEPY DOLLS WEEK ROUNDUP:

The Boy (2016)
Magic (1978)
Dolls (1987)
Annabelle (2014)
Finders Keepers (2014)
– Goosebumps (2015)
Dead Of Night (1945)
My Top Ten Creepy Dolls In Movies & Television

The Book Thief & Paper Towns Movie Reviews

Here are two quickie reviews of two movie adaptations of two books that I read recently. Since I read the books, I figured I better finally watch the films. I never really enjoy a movie much after reading the book and, in the case of one of these, I pretty much hated the book so I wasn’t hoping for much from the movie. Here we go!

Paper Towns (2015)

Directed by Jake Schreier

Based on Paper Towns by John Green

Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Jaz Sinclair

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After an all night adventure, Quentin’s life-long crush, Margo, disappears, leaving behind clues that Quentin and his friends follow on the journey of a lifetime.

My Opinion:

I did a very short review of the Paper Towns book HERE (I rated it 2.5/5). Full of hateful characters, I didn’t enjoy the book very much. The main boy (played by Nat Wolff in the movie) was okay but a bit bland. The girl he loves (Margo, played by Cara Delevingne) & his best friend (who is a sexist little shit & calls all girls “honey bunnies”) are annoying as hell. Seriously, Margo isn’t interesting & mysterious – she’s a bitch. But I liked the story, which involves Margo’s friends trying to track her down through a series of bizarre clues she’s left behind.

Once I’ve read a book, I always try to watch the movie adaptation but it’s never that exciting to me since I already know the story & get a bit bored. This one is a pretty straightforward & faithful adaptation. If you like the book, you should like the movie. I think this is a rare occasion where the film is better & I’d say it’s mainly down to them making Margo seem a little more human & less hateful. I also thought Nat Wolff did a good job as Quentin & made the character less dull than in the book. If you’re interested in the story, I’d actually recommend watching the movie & skipping the book as the book doesn’t really flesh out the characters any more than the film does and the movie doesn’t leave out anything important (from what I can remember).

Even though I’m WAY past “Young Adult” age, I still really enjoy reading/watching YA stuff as I can still relate to most of it. Trust me – when you get old like me, it’s very likely that it’ll still feel like you only just finished high school yesterday. It’s a traumatic time in life & I remember more from that time than I do from when I was a twentysomething. However, Paper Towns was one I couldn’t relate to at all. Maybe I’m finally out of touch? Or maybe John Green just doesn’t quite capture what teens are really like? The characters didn’t feel real to me, unlike the ones in things like The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (fantastic film & book!). But that one was set in my own era of high school with an awesome soundtrack while Paper Towns is set now & the characters refer to things from their own youth that mean nothing to me (like singing what I assume is the Pokémon TV show theme tune). No, I think the characters are weak and are the real reason I can’t connect with Paper Towns. At least the movie improves on the book slightly so I can’t give it a low rating as it’s a good adaptation and I think plenty of teens/twentysomethings probably really like it. But I’d recommend other YA stuff to people my own age before I’d recommend this one.

My Rating: 6/10

The Book Thief (2013)

Directed by Brian Percival

Based on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, Heike Makatsch, Barbara Auer, Roger Allam

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is about a young girl living with her adoptive German family during the Nazi era. Taught to read by her kind-hearted foster father, the girl begins “borrowing” books and sharing them with the Jewish refugee being sheltered by her foster parents in their home.

My Opinion:

I reviewed The Book Thief novel HERE (along with all 14 books I read last year – I ranked this one my 8th favorite out of 14 & rated it 3.5/5). Unlike Paper Towns, this book had strong characters & I really cared what would happen to them. The book was actually let down slightly by its unnecessary gimmick (it’s narrated by Death aka The Grim Reaper) and did feel overlong. I really liked the book but didn’t love it like I was hoping, despite loving the characters. Still, I’m glad it got the characters right as that’s really important to me.


In this case, I’d definitely recommend reading the book before watching the film. It’s a good adaptation with fine performances but they’ve had to leave things out (as to be expected with a long book). The characters are just so richly developed in the book, which rarely gets captured as well in a film. They did come close, however – both Sophie Nélisse (Liesel – the main character) & Geoffrey Rush (Hans, her foster father) are fantastic & exactly as I pictured. Emily Watson (Rosa, her foster mother) & Nico Liersch (Rudy, her best friend) are also very good but have far less time spent on them than in the book. Rosa is a complex character so it will have been hard to capture this but I was most upset with how little we got to know Rudy in the film as I absolutely loved him & his beautiful friendship with Liesel in the book. Ben Schnetzer (as Max, the Jewish refugee they’re hiding) was also very good & as I had pictured but, again, he sadly doesn’t get enough time devoted to him in the film.

Luckily, the movie leaves out quite a lot of the Grim Reaper’s narrative. It’s done well & not distracting, whereas it kind of threw me out of the story every time they came back to it in the book. But don’t let that criticism talk you out of reading the book as I’d definitely recommend it if the story interests you. I’m not sure how to rate this movie… I thought it was quite good but, knowing the novel is better, I couldn’t help but be just a little let down despite great performances & some perfect casting. If you’re someone who really doesn’t like to read, then by all means watch the movie instead & probably add an extra point to my below rating. It’s a good film & they’ve done the best they possibly could with a somewhat difficult novel to adapt but, ultimately, the film doesn’t deliver the same emotional punch as you don’t get to know some of the characters as well as you do in the book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

**Okay, I admit to knowing the Pokémon song very well now since my kid has become addicted to the show….

And here are some of the best Pokémon we’ve caught (I love annoying people with this!) 😉

Bad Neighbours (2014) Review (aka Neighbors)

20140506-091107 pm.jpg

Bad Neighbours (2014) (aka Neighbors – US Title)

Directed by Nicholas Stoller

Starring:
Seth Rogen
Zac Efron
Rose Byrne
Dave Franco
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Lisa Kudrow
Craig Roberts
Ike Barinholtz
Jake Johnson
Hannibal Buress
Halston Sage
Ali Cobrin

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
A couple (Seth Rogen & Rose Byrne) have to deal with the difficulties of trying to raise their young baby after a noisy college fraternity suddenly moves in next door. It turns into an all-out war & (predictable) HILARITY ENSUES!

20140506-092012 pm.jpg

My Opinion:

Don’t you hate when movie titles get changed for other countries? I think the dumbest one was maybe Adventures In Babysitting being called A Night On The Town elsewhere. Also, Joy Ride was given the (just as dumb) title of Roadkill in the UK. The first Harold & Kumar movie was called Harold & Kumar Get The Munchies as we don’t have White Castles here. Reindeer Games was renamed Deception (no clue why). The fabulous & underrated Searching For Bobby Fischer was renamed Innocent Moves (what a sucky title!). There are tons more but I won’t waste your time any longer. At least Neighbors being changed to Bad Neighbours isn’t too bad and I suppose makes sense as everyone here apparently loves a stupid-looking Australian soap opera named Neighbours that I’ve never seen but it seems every Australian actor has been in it at least once. But I digress. Massively. Onto the review…

20140506-092414 pm.jpg

Bad Neighbours is, well, exactly what you’d expect from a comedy with Seth Rogen in it. I like some of his movies okay and don’t like others as much (This Is The End was decent but I don’t really get Superbad – maybe I need to watch it again). I liked The 40 Year-Old Virgin okay (written by the writers of Bad Neighbours). Basically, I can take or leave most of this kind of stuff – comedy isn’t really my favorite genre. But Bad Neighbours is, overall, one of the better ones in my opinion and I did laugh a good few times.

20140506-093514 pm.jpg

As I knew beforehand, since I’m old, it was the couple with the baby that I could relate to in this & not the college students. I suppose they’ve kind of managed to hit two target audiences this way. Although, as the hubby pointed out, this feels like it was written by those more our age (I don’t know the ages of the writers) so it didn’t feel quite as natural during the Zac Efron/frat party scenes as it did when Seth Rogen & Rose Byrne were onscreen. I suppose this is partly why I found any scenes with Rogen & Byrne far more funny than those with just Zac Efron & his frat brothers (especially the Rogen/Byrne sex scenes – they were pretty funny & I’m not exactly into “sex comedies”). I was worried beforehand that I’d just be too annoyed by the antics of the fraternity (I’m old. I can’t relate to horny, drunken twentysomethings). 😉 But, luckily, I don’t think they went too overboard & they didn’t make any of them too hateful. Indeed, there are good & bad from each side of this “neighbor war” and you may find that you change sides at times. (Although I was ALWAYS on the side of the couple with one of the most adorable baby girls EVER! Look at her! Awww. So freaking cute!). 🙂

20140506-092602 pm.jpg

So… Yeah. I don’t know. This movie was fun and I did enjoy it. It’s not the best comedy ever and it’s certainly not the worst. There are things I’d have done differently (such as the ending, which doesn’t quite feel resolved). But I didn’t HATE it in any way, which is how I feel about some comedies these days. There’s plenty of juvenile humor and loads of “dick jokes” but nothing I found totally stupid and nothing that I found offensive. And, I don’t want to sound uptight, but I think too much “comedy” resorts to sexist behavior that really gets on my nerves. There are some naked boobs in this, naturally, but for once the girls in a comedy weren’t treated like nothing more than a pair of tits. Yes, it’s of course mostly male actors as it’s a fraternity (I doubt it would pass The Bechdel test) but at least Rose Byrne’s role was just as big as Rogen’s & I think she did a really good job here and was very funny (Even though you see her boobs. Kind of. Not sure if they were really hers… Lol – You’ll see what I mean if you see it).

20140506-092657 pm.jpg

Summary:

If you go to this expecting to have a few good laughs and to not have to think too much for 97 minutes, you should like this just fine. If you like Seth Rogen and/or any of the other people involved in this and the other movies they’ve made, you should like this just fine. I’m sorry this review makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy this much because I actually did – it’s just not my first choice of genre but I do like to have a bit of silly fun with a movie like this sometimes. I liked This Is The End and Bad Neighbours is kind of up there with that one for me – the concept is much more simple and it’s nowhere near as over the top but there are some genuinely funny moments in both movies.

My Rating: 7/10

20140506-092750 pm.jpg